Peaceful Black Lives Matter rally and vigil in Kelowna

Hundreds gathered in downtown Kelowna to spread awareness of police brutality.

On Friday June 5, 2020, hundreds of people gathered in Stuart Park, Kelowna, B.C. in response to the killing of George Floyd and to raise awareness of systemic oppression, racism and police brutality.

“I’m just here supporting the cause,” says Jarrett Young.

“I want to be an activist for the change that needs to happen after seeing the horrible things that I’ve seen in the last seven days.” 

Floyd, an African American man died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, shortly after being handcuffed and forced to lay face down, while police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the back of his neck, and continued to do so even after he became unresponsive. Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder.

“It goes from police brutality all the way up to watching that 10-minute video of George Floyd,” Young says.

“That frustration and pain that boiled up inside just from seeing a public lynching of that degree.”

“There’s tough topics that need to be addressed and that’s why I’m here,” he says. 

Locally Organized

Co-organizers Paige Harrison and Kermisha Pereira of the Black Lives Matter rally in Kelowna, B.C. Photo by Chehala Leonard.

Two of the four co-organizers of the rally and vigil are Paige Harrison and Kermisha Pereira. 

“It’s overwhelmingly beautiful, everyone is just great, everyone is listening,” says Pereira.

Harrison explains the format for the event which started at noon and ended with a vigil after eight that night. 

“The protest is quite long. It’s a whole eight hours, which normally it’s four hours tops but we just wanted to give people a chance to come in and share, and people have been sharing their stories throughout the whole event,” Pereira says.

“It’s very united.”

The event was open to the public and anyone could attend and speak as it was an open mic. 

“We’re all here for the same goal too, so it’s amazing. Creating unity and also representation within Black Lives Matter,” says Harrison.

Vigil for George Floyd

At the end of the event supporters marched from Stuart Park towards Cawston Ave, and then circled back down Water street, ending at the Kelowna sails for a silent vigil.

“It’s 8 minutes and 47 seconds in honour of George Floyd,” says Harrison.

“It may feel like a long time to have your fist in the air for almost nine minutes but I think it’s really necessary to honour his life and honestly his legacy that he will hold on throughout years to come,” says Harrison.

Near the end of the silent vigil in a white truck driving down Bernard Ave, was a man holding out his arm and hand in what appeared to many a Nazi salute. While the vigil proceeded and ended shortly afterwards, photographer Adam Newton-Blows captured it on camera. He shared his photos with us.

Man holding arm out in what appears to be a Nazi-salute as they drove past silent vigil for George Floyd. Photo submitted by Adam Newton-Blows.

Systemic change

While people are uniting globally for Black Lives Matter protests, this movement is also bringing into question police tactics and violence more broadly. 

Since the killing of George Floyd we’re seeing many more incidents brought forward.

Chantel Moore, a Tla-o-qui-aht woman was shot to death during a wellness check by a police officer in Edmunston, N.B. A video has surfaced of a 75-year old man who was pushed, fell and hit his head causing him to be hospitalized in serious but stable condition. Two Buffalo Police officers who have since been suspended. Maurice Gordon was shot dead by a state trooper during a routine traffic stop in Burlington County, New Jersey, and his family is still seeking answers. And Alberta’s police watchdog is investigating after Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says he was beaten by RCMP.

For Young change needs to happen systemically, “It’s not just the United States, it’s the world that is speaking up against the police forces, so there needs to be reform there,” 

Young continues, “Black lives matter, Indigenous lives matter and until everyone’s lives matter the same all lives don’t matter.”

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